Day 17 is my favorite memory.

I don’t do singular best-ever favorites. Really. I am not that linear. So I’ll pick one of my favorites, and perhaps share others later on.

When I was seventeen, in late spring, my sister‘s parents invited me along on their family vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. Having not seen the ocean since Myrtle Beach in South Carolina when I was itty, I eagerly agreed. They were incredibly generous and insisted on paying my way, for which I am forever grateful, as I couldn’t have gone otherwise.

It was unspeakably odd watching the land flatten slowly as we left my beloved mountains behind, but the bridges once we got near Chesapeake Bay were amazing. We stopped at Fisherman’s Inn on the bay, where I had my first taste of cream of crab soup, which became one of my favorite foods that I can get nowhere else. We also saw a few wild ponies on Assateague Island in passing, and I put my toes into the surf for the first time in years.

I was struck then, well and truly, with the ocean’s magnificence. It attracted me like a magnet. My sister showed me how to move with the waves, not stand against them, and I spent the next hour doing the exact opposite of what she’d said, lunging at each wave as it rolled to meet me. I was sent tumbling a few times and surfaced with wild laughter, while my sister shook her head and her parents eyeballed us from the shoreline.

We stayed in the Carousel, an amazing hotel right on the waterfront, which enabled us to have convenient night-time beach walks. We strolled the boardwalk and found dozens of hole-in-the-wall shops, bought little trinkets and toys, and generally cavorted around.

It was easily one of the most formative experiences in my life, and certainly the highlight of that year.